Danish students boost ESA technology transfer

A smart hand controller for remote control of robotic devices. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for low temperature environments. A high-tech filter for rocket fuels fluids. All three are patented ESA technologies which were originally developed for European space applications. However, they have the potential to be spun out for commercial terrestrial applications.

February 3, 2021

During this spring semester a number of students at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) will be working intensively to accelerate the commercial exploitation of the spin-off potential in selected ESA patents.

As part of a new collaboration between ESA Business Incubation Centre Denmark and DTU’s Centre for Technology Entrepreneurship, teams of DTU engineering students and business students from Copenhagen Business School (CBS) will explore new business opportunities for spinning off selected patents from the vast ESA IP portfolio.

The endeavour is part of the 13-week master-level student commercialization program X-Tech Entrepreneurship where advanced technologies are matched with teams of highly motivated DTU and CBS students. The goal is to build the framework for a number of startups on the basis of selected technologies – among them ESA patents.

Each team is guided by an experienced business mentor and the teams are also given access to a series of specialists who can assist them in different areas such as product development, business development, prototyping, finances, IP rights etc. In addition, the teams also get access to advanced prototyping facilities and the teams are provided with a small budget for building prototypes. After 13 weeks of intensive labor the outcome will be a prototype, a business plan, and an entrepreneurial team ready to explore a new business venture based on ESA patents.

At the Lions Den event on 21st May, which concludes the program, each team presents their proposed new venture and is evaluated by a panel of experienced investors. The top 3 teams will win a prize of 20.000 DKK each to use on their startup and the promise of a 100.000 DKK prize, (fund courtesy of Otto Bruuns found and venture capital firm Pre-Seed Ventures) if they decide to pursue the startup after the end of their studies.

“In many cases the direction in which to spin-out space patents is not readily apparent. Therefore successfully facilitating space technology transfer require a combination of relevant technical expertise and creative business development. Along with lots of dedication and motivation”, says Sune Nordentoft Lauritsen, who is managing the ESA BIC Denmark.

“And these are qualities possessed by the cross-disciplinary and highly motivated student teams in DTU’s X-Tech Entrepreneurship program. We are very excited about this innovative new approach to space technology transfer and we hope that it will provide a boost to the process of turning ESA patents into successful new ventures.”

“The Space Track is a great addition to the X-Tech programme linking Big Science public data and resources with new ventures. The projects proposed are perfect for a programme like X-Tech, which has Tech and Engineering at its core”, says Thomas Howard, Head of DTU X-Tech, Centre for Tech Entrepreneurship

Read more about X-Tech Entrepreneurship here.

Photo credits: DTU Entrepreneurship. Archive picture taken before the Danish COVID-19 new restrictions took effect in 2020

About the ESA technologies

The ESA hand controller device patent provides a very exact control of an activity performed remotely by a robotic hand, developed for astronauts to do work in space. Accurate force-feedback sensors on the fingers provide the wearer exact pressure feeling of the object operated remotely.

The ESA patented rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology was developed for use in space at very low temperatures. Today`s lithium-ion rechargeable cells may be discharged at low temperature, but often need to be charged at room temperature, a major draw-back when used in cold environments. The ESA Lithium-ion battery can effectively be changes down to at least -40°C.

The ESA patented Multi-layer Mesh Filter for fluids was developed to be sure that the fuel supply to the European Ariane launcher does not clog up during take-off. The improved structure maximizes the surface and prevents particle build up, in addition to a number of other operational advantages due to being produced through additive manufacturing, which could also open up for business potential in terrestrial applications.



Sune Nordentoft Lauritsen
Managing Director, European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre Denmark
DTU Space
+45 45 25 97 21


Thomas J. Howard
Associate Professor, Head of Innovation and Group Leader of Technology Entrepreneurship in Practice
DTU Entrepreneurship
+45 50 11 59 82


Poul Zimmermann Nielsen
Technology transfer manager, European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre Denmark
DTU Space
+45 93 51 14 68


Edvard Foss
Pre-incubation Coordinator, European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre Denmark
DTU Space
+45 45 25 98 07